Monday, January 30, 2017

Will new code requirements backfire?

Letter from Columbia Borough explaining procedure for obtaining Certificate of Occupancy

Columbia Spy spoke with a Lancaster County businessman late today, who voiced an opinion about a recent ordinance (Ordinance 875-2016) regarding home inspections and certificates of occupancy. He requested that his name be withheld.

He believes the ordinance will lead to increased vacant and blighted properties. Owners will walk away from properties due to heavy-handed inspections and repair requirements, he said, leading to an increase in crime and a situation like that of Harrisburg, which he calls "the capital of blighted."

Citing one such home inspection lasting three-and-a-half hours and resulting in a 13-page repair list, he said that such scrutiny requires too many repairs for homes valued at only $30,000.

He surmises that every borough property decreased in value when the ordinance was passed, adding that it "borders on illegal." He said Columbia is in the shape it's in because it is mismanaged.

About Town

Monday, Monday . . .

In the morning, three-car accident on Route 30, near Laurel Hill Road . . .

In the afternoon, fender-bender at North Fifth and Chestnut . . .

Flag-raising at the Columbia Water Company . . .

On Locust Street -   Mr. Liberty . . .   Mr.? . . . Things sure have changed in Trump's America.

On 18th Street - another bank robbery at Union Community Bank. Two suspects were apprehended. The story is HERE.

 On Avenue G - Ready for demo. The backstory is HERE.

Monday, Monday

UPDATE- HHS situation resolved | East Hempfield Police Department

Update Hempfield High School ongoing situation | East Hempfield Police Department

Ammunition found; K9s brought in.

Notice to parents from Hempfield School District

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Meetings this week, January 30 - February 3

Columbia Borough Council will interview for a vacant council seat this coming Thursday, February 2, at 6 p.m. at the Municipal Building, 308 Locust Street.

The same night and at the same time, the Columbia Borough School Board will hold its Committee of the Whole meeting at the District Administration Center, 200 North Fifth Street.

Both meetings are open to the public.

Read to Spencer at the library this Tuesday January 31 at 6 p.m.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Judge dismisses petition; board fills seat

For the backstory on the following article go HEREHEREHEREHERE, and HERE

Frank Doutrich's petition for an open school board seat was dismissed by Judge Dennis E. Reinaker at 3:16 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, a little more than two hours before the board was to convene for a special meeting. A January 23, 2017 legal notice in LNP listed the meeting's agenda, which included items to un-table a previous motion and appoint a candidate to the seat. Doutrich learned of the dismissal only after calling the courthouse that afternoon. He subsequently drove to the courthouse to retrieve the documents.

Order from the Court of Common Pleas dismissing Frank Doutrich's filing

During the citizens' comments portion of the meeting, Doutrich asked Michael Grab, the board's solicitor, if there had been any contact with the school district and the courthouse prior to the judge's decision. Grab said there was not. "The Lancaster County Court contacted my office to advise my office as district solicitor that a petition or something that purported to be a petition had been filed naming the school district as an adverse party to find out if the district had received any notification of that, and I indicated to the court that the district had not."

Doutrich then asked Grab if there had been a prior conversation between the judge and him. Grab replied, "No. The only conversation that I had with the court was when the court notified my office that there had been a file."

"But you hadn't spoke to the judge on this?'" Doutrich asked.

"Only when the court had notified my office that there had been a file." Grab replied. He said that had been the end of the conversation.

Doutrich said he had been at various school board meetings with board members and Director of Operations Tom Strickler in which he was directed to file with the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas for an open board seat. "Folks, it's not that simple," Doutrich said. "I know I got an education through the process, but if I had to do over - the embarrassment that it caused for the borough - I would've never filed for this position. And through the process, folks, something smells."

Doutrich asked the board when they found out about the decision. Grab replied that he had found out at about 4:30 p.m. when he checked the prothonotary's website. "The board has no knowledge of the dismissal of your petition. I just found out myself, and as the meeting progressed, I was going to advise the board that it happened.” Grab said he had already advised the board what their jurisdictional authority is to appoint someone if they wished to proceed to do that. "But they were not aware that the petition had actually been dismissed by the court,” Grab said.

Doutrich then asked if Grab agreed that he had stated to the judge that the petition be dismissed. Grab said that the court had contacted his office to advise that it had received some form of filing “purported to be a petition.” He said he had indicated to the court that the board's position would be that unless the petition met the requirements of the rules of procedure, in general it would not be a valid. He said that the court indicated that the file did not require a formal response at that time.

Doutrich questioned the board about the urgency of holding the special meeting, citing the school board brief in LNP which stated that the board can conduct business with only eight members as it awaits a court decision. (The board had previously voted to table a decision pending a judge's decision.) "What was the urgency to have this meeting without knowing that the judge had rejected this?" Doutrich asked.

Grab replied that it's up to the board to decide who fills the vacancy. He said the board is mandated to proceed "with some speed" to try to fill vacancies when they occur. "The only thing that prevented the filling of the vacancy was the representation you made that there had been a petition filed with the court and that somehow the court had jurisdiction, and the board no longer did." Grab said he clarified with the board that it had jurisdiction until a valid petition is filed with the court.

Doutrich asked why, if some board members had known that two letters of interest had been filed within the 30 days, the board didn't act. "Had they done that, none of us would be here now."

Doutrich asked Board President Keith Combs who is responsible to relay that information to board members. Combs said it would have been his [Combs's] responsibility. He said he found out about the letters of interest on January 6. He explained that he had been out of state at that time on a family matter, and when he returned he sent out a meeting notification. “I still look at it from the standpoint that if there were questions about how the board should proceed at that point that someone else may have stepped up to answer those questions or seek a motion to have a meeting scheduled so that we could proceed," Combs said.

"Who was to notify you that they had two applicants?" Doutrich asked. Combs said that would come from the administration. Doutrich asked who in the administration, and Combs replied that Strickler had sent him the email.

Doutrich said the judge called him and didn't appear to know how to move forward with the process. Doutrich added he believed this was something new to the judge and that court employees also didn't understand what he was applying for. Grab said the form of the petition filed may have been confusing to the court as to what it was Doutrich was seeking.

After a motion by Iris Garrido and second by Vickie Anspach the board voted 7-0 to appoint Jenna Geesey to the open seat.

Board member Barry Ford, attending by phone, did not respond on the roll call vote.

Doutrich asked Columbia Spy to relay his congratulations to Jenna Geesey who was appointed to the board Wednesday night.  He thanks all citizens and friends who supported him during this effort.  

Friday, January 27, 2017

First floor of Garth Gallery closed for renovation February into March; second floor open

The 1st floor gallery at Garth will be closed for renovations during the month of February into early March. The frame shop and 2nd floor exhibiting areas including the cafe will be open our normal hours. There will be NO 4th Friday Exhibit for January or February, and our next opening will be our Annual Abstract Exhibit in March with date to follow. Thank you.

Painting workshop at SVCC

Interested in learning to paint a Georgia O'Keeffe?

We have openings for our January 27, 6-8 p.m. workshop with Master Teacher, Ange Bentivegna.
The workshop is designed for beginners or intermediate, with step by step instruction, creating a 16x20 inch painting. All painting supplies included.


Susquehanna Center for the Creative Arts
224 Locust Street
Columbia, PA 17512

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Susquehanna Saturdays Returns to Columbia Crossing

Returning on February 18, 2017, Susquehanna Heritage will continue its monthly "Susquehanna Saturdays" program at the Columbia Crossing River Trail Center. "Susquehanna Saturdays" will present fun hands-on activities for all ages on a variety of topics that explore nature, history, and culture. This hands-on educational program is available anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., while supplies last. All Susquehanna Saturdays are free for all ages, but a suggested donation of $2 per participant is appreciated.

Coming up:

March 18, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. – “Harnessing the Wind” – Explore how wind is a force that can cause movement, motion, and power, and how to use this force in our everyday lives. Create a sailboat, make something fly high into the air, and discover how a turbine moves and uses wind to create energy with Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA). This program is sponsored by LCSWMA.

April 15, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. – “Upcycle! With LCSWMA” – Join our friends from LCSWMA to learn about recycling and create your own special piece using recycled materials and upcycle it for a new purpose.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

School board appoints Jenna Geesey to vacant seat

Jenna Geesey

The Columbia School Board voted unanimously to appoint Jenna Geesey to fill a vacancy at a special meeting Wednesday night. Geesey was not present. She interviewed for the position before the board at a special meeting on January 18.

Judge Dennis Reinaker dismissed Frank Doutrich's petition for the seat on Wednesday afternoon.


School Board poised to reverse decision and appoint board member

The Columbia School Board is poised to reverse a previous decision and appoint a board director to a vacant seat at a special meeting tonight at 5:30 p.m. at the district office.

According to the meeting agenda (posted at the district website), the board will attempt a reversal of its January 18 vote to table an appointment in order to fill the vacant seat. (The vote was tabled pending a judge's decision.) The solicitor will then present an argument challenging Frank Doutrich's petition for the seat.

The seat was vacated by Leo Lutz, Jr. when he resigned from the board effective December 9, 2016. When the board failed to fulfill the legal requirement to appoint a new board member within 30 days, Doutrich filed a petition with the Court of Common Pleas for the seat. Doutrich told the Spy late this morning that he had not received any notification of the judge's decision.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

School Board Brief from today's LNP

Family Movie Night at the Library Wednesday night at 6 p.m.

School board to hold special meeting Wednesday, Jan. 25 to discuss vacancy

The Columbia Borough School Board will hold a Special Meeting on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, at 5:30 p.m. in the District Administration Center, 200 N. 5th Street to discuss the vacant board position and take any necessary action, and to address any other matter that comes before the board.

The legal notice is HERE.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The fog comes on little cat feet

The fog comes 
on little cat feet. 

It sits looking 
over harbor and city 
on silent haunches 
and then moves on.

"Fog" by Carl Sandburg

The fog crept into town this weekend. Here are a few photos of the spectacle:

A heron stood watch from atop one of the Civil War bridge piers.

And this seagull seemed befuddled by it all.

Sign of an early spring?

A flock of tundra swans flew over this afternoon. A sign of an early spring? 
Let's hope so!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Columbia School Board reverses decision - almost!

The Columbia School Board almost reversed course Thursday night when they rehashed a motion from the previous night’s meeting.

At issue was how a vacancy left by Leo Lutz, Jr. in December would be filled. Resident Frank Doutrich had filed paperwork with the court to fill the vacant seat since the board had not made an appointment within the 30-day time frame. During the special meeting Wednesday night, the board had voted to table any motion for a vote pending the outcome of a judge’s decision. At Thursday night’s regular school board meeting, however, President Keith Combs revisited the issue. “I’m looking to make a determination as to whether or not the board can proceed with a vote on the candidates that were interviewed,” he said.

Board Director Kathleen Hohenadel pointed out that the board had voted to table the action the previous evening, until the judge’s decision. “We can't just go ahead and appoint someone now, because it’s a very specific motion tabling until a very specific time,” she pointed out.

But Combs persisted, asking for comments leading to a motion to take the previous night’s action off the table.

Board Director Iris Garrido read from a law stating that if a vacancy is not filled by school directors within 30 days, the court of common pleas can intervene. “It's up to the courts,” she said. “It's not in our hands.”

Nathan Saxton, acting as the board’s attorney, said no official notice of action by the court had been received. “Our office has not received any notification or service of a petition being filed, so it's our position that to our knowledge, there's no petition that has been filed with the courts that would preclude the board from having any jurisdiction over the appointment of the vacancy,” Saxton said.

Garrido explained that the reason the board had decided to delay a vote was due to Doutrich’s petition and the judge’s confusion over what to do with it. Garrido then asked Doutrich, who was present, if he had a copy of the petition with him. He replied he had had it at the previous night's meeting but felt he would not need it at this meeting, since the board had declined to accept it when he offered it the night before.

Doutrich also told the board he was aware that the district solicitor had been talking back and forth with the judge. He also said that Director of Operations Tom Strickler had made a comment indicating there had been communication with the judge. “So this is in the making,” he said.

Saxton then reiterated that under the present circumstances there was nothing precluding the board from acting to make an appointment.
“I'm not going to break the law because you're telling me to break the law,” Garrido told Saxton.

Saxton said that the court would have the authority to vacate any appointment made by the board if the petition were found to exist and appoint the person the board deems most fit. In the absence of that, the board appointment would stand.

Hohenadel said, “I just think the cleanest way is to stick with the motion from last evening that it's tabled. I would hate for us to appoint somebody and then have them pulled back out of that seat because the judge vacated them.” She advised the board to wait for the judge’s decision.

Hohenadel asked Saxton if anyone in the attorneys’ office had had any communication with anyone on the district prior to Wednesday night’s meeting.

Saxton replied that he was informed of allegations that the petition was filed but stressed that he had not seen it. “I was informed from somebody in my office that the district had related somebody claimed a petition was filed,” he said.

Hohenadel chided Saxton. “We as a school board came in last evening, and we hadn't heard any of this, so if there was communication between your office and the district office, I would've hoped there would have been from there some upward communication to the board at some point in time,” she said. “There’s nothing more embarrassing than coming into a public meeting – and people presume that we have information that we don't. It hasn't been shared with us.” Hohenadel then asked Doutrich to submit copies of the petition to the school district on Friday, which he agreed to do.

January Students of the Month

(Students in photo are not necessarily in order of names below.)

CHS Students of the Month:

Emily Stephens - Grade 12
Ciara Arroyo - Grade 11
Madison Simpson - Grade 10
Breanah Mitchell - Grade 9

MS Taylor/Hill Campus Students of the Month:
Kayloni Costello - Grade 8
Shayla Barley - Grade 7
Kiera Brown - Grade 6
Kirsten Resch - Grade 5 

Park Elementary School Students of the Month: 

Lillian Ross - Grade 4 - Mrs.Redding 
Jeinelys DeJesus Colon - Grade 3 - Mrs.Cellucci 
Sophia Carson - Grade 2 - Mrs.Aston 
Alexis Droege - Grade 1 - Mrs.Herr 
Nevaeh Davila Reyes - Kindergarten - Mrs. Winters

School Board Director Iris Garrido in current issue of La Voz Lancaster

Iris Garrido is featured in the January 19, 2017 issue of La Voz Lancaster, a Spanish-language newspaper published by LNP Media Group, Inc. Garrido is a director on the Columbia Borough School Board.

The online article can be found HERE. The hard copy can be found at THESE LOCATIONS.

Movie at the Market House next Saturday

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Resident confronts school board with legal action over vacant seat

The Columbia Borough School Board had expected to fill a vacancy at a special meeting Wednesday night but ended up tabling the move due to legal action taken by a resident. 

During the citizen comments section of the meeting, resident Frank Doutrich announced that he had filed a petition at the Lancaster County Courthouse to claim the seat vacated by Leo Lutz Jr. on December 9, 2016. According to court documents, Doutrich's petition was filed with the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas on January 9 of this year due to the vacancy not being filled within 30 days.

"The school board did not fill this within 30 days," Doutrich told the board. "According to the letter of the law, that was my next step, and I did everything right according to the letter of the law." Doutrich added that he paid a $164.25 filing fee.

Doutrich also said that the school board's attorney had interceded on the matter with a judge at the courthouse. "If you check with your attorney, he's going back and forth with the judge. I know that for a fact," Doutrich said. "Somebody else here knows what was going on."

(NOTE: Columbia Spy has learned that Michael Grab, attorney for the school board, has asked Judge Dennis Reinaker of the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas to dismiss the petition, claiming that it is "unverified," further naming it a "purported petition." Grab claims he has not seen the petition. Grab also states that the 11 signers of the petition are taxpayers but believes it is not valid, based on various statutes. He claims that the board may appoint a new board member after the 30-day deadline.)

Doutrich told the board that the matter is no longer under its jurisdiction, because it is under review by the judge. He said that on the advice of his attorney, he was there to explain why he would not be participating in the interview process. "This is in the hands of the court," he said. "This is out of the hands of the school board." 

Doutrich said he had originally submitted a letter of interest on January 3 regarding the vacant seat - within the 30 days.  He asked why nothing was discussed regarding the position at the January 5, 2017 Committee of the Whole meeting. Board President Keith Combs replied that he was not at that meeting. Doutrich then asked why the position had not been filled within the 30-day period. Combs said interviews were scheduled once the board had applicants, after the January 5 meeting. At that meeting, the board made no announcement about the vacancy or that interviews would be scheduled after the 30-day deadline. Doutrich said that after the meeting, he had asked three school board members if there were any candidates for the position and was told that no one had been so informed.

At the conclusion of Doutrich's comments, Combs decided the board should proceed with interviewing the only other candidate present, Jenna Irene Geesey. Afterwards, Combs said that even though Doutrich did not participate in the interview process, he was still a viable candidate "for voting purposes tonight." 

Board Director Kathleen Hohenadel advised the board that they would be better off tabling the matter until the judge renders his decision, because the petition is still in process. Hohenadel then made a motion to that effect which was seconded by Vickie Anspach, but before a vote could be taken, Director of Operations Tom Strickler interjected: "Your solicitor has told you to proceed tonight.  At the direction of the president, the solicitor did get back to Keith and told him to proceed with the interviews tonight, so that's your decision." A roll call vote was then taken, and the motion to table passed unanimously.

This issue was further discussed at Thursday night's regular board meeting.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

SCCA offering painting workshop

The Susquehanna Center for the Creative Arts is offering a painting workshop with Master Artist, Ange Bentivegna this month.

You will create a 16x20 painting of high quality in two hours. The workshop is designed for beginners and those with experience.

Go HERE for more information.

Looser rules on beer sales to take effect today

A state law that becomes official today will let beer distributors sell any quantity, including individual 32-ounce bottles, six-packs and growlers.